MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Some favorite Memphis summer activities are back.
Organizers are trying to stay on top of the constantly changing COVID-19 mandates and recommendations to provide a safe and fun time.
The summer season, though still seven weeks away, starts to get back to some sort of normal on Tuesday as the Memphis Redbirds are finally back in action after almost 600 days in the Bluff City.
Along with baseball, some Memphis in May events and outdoor concerts are back in Memphis this summer. For now, COVID-19 protocols are in place at all these events, but organizers are watching closely to see how this will change as the season continues.
“Outdoor activities have always been dramatically safer than indoor activities,” said Baptist Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Steve Threlkeld.
Some of Memphis’ favorite outdoor activities were cancelled last year, but are back this year, including the Redbirds season. The season tickets are being sold in small groups to create socially distanced sections of Autozone Park. Masks must be worn at all times.
“I think people should expect what has become the norm,” said Memphis Redbirds President Craig Unger.
The current Shelby County health directive and City of Memphis mask ordinance are being reviewed after Governor Bill Lee requested business restrictions and mask mandates end by Memorial Day. Autozone Park is under the guidance of Major League Baseball (MLB) first and foremost which has a mask mandate at all its parks.
“The hierarchy will start at Major League Baseball,” Unger said. “Now, MLB and the county are aligned. If one were to drop below, we would always pick the most stringent thing in our operations no matter who it is.”
Other rules to follow at games this year include no cash transactions and only digital ticket sales. Park officials also want you to carry clear bags to cut down on person-to-person contact when checking bags.
Organizers of other outdoor events, like those at Memphis Botanic Garden, are optimistic they can hold an outdoor maskless concert as COVID-19 protocols change locally, whenever that may be.
“We’re aware of what the CDC is saying, we’re certainly aware of what Governor Lee is saying, we are supportive of that as a large outdoor venue,” said Michael Allen, executive director of Memphis Botanic Garden. “We would prefer these mask guidelines be reduced quicker rather than later, but we want to be good citizens of Shelby County.”
Allen is still working with the Shelby County Health Department to see if the Live at the Garden Concert Series will be a go this year after cancelling the series last year.
“As we stand here today, I’m fairly confident we will have a Live at the Garden concert series this year,” Allen said.
Currently, some smaller shows are planned for the stage at the garden. The last one drew a sellout 1,200-person crowd. Groups were put in socially distant pods. Masks were mandatory when not in the pod. It’s a plan approved by the Shelby County Health Department in accordance to current rules.
Threlkeld expects outdoor mask rules to be loosened this summer, but recommends always having one on hand just in case.
“Very few of the cases we ‘ve seen overtime have been in outdoor situations and most of them have been in very crowded outdoor situations,” Threlkeld said.
Allen said an announcement about Live at the Garden should come by early June. Mayor Lee Harris said the next health directive with the latest on restrictions and masks will be out May 13.